Psalm 104: 1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
The responsorial psalm for Pentecost is from Psalm 104, a nature hymn that celebrates God’s greatness, majesty, and sovereign dominion. Filled with lofty poeticism, it is one of the most beautiful psalms in the entire Psalter.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
The passage begins with a self-summons to sing the praises of God.
The Hebrew word that is translated “soul” (nepesh) comes from the word for breath. It yields over twenty meanings, chief among which are life-breath (or soul), life, and living person. The reference here is probably to that center within the person from which all one’s life forces flow. This is not merely a spiritual or immaterial reality; it encompasses every aspect of the person. Every part of the psalmist’s being is called upon to give praise to God.
How manifold are your works, O LORD! The earth is full of your creatures.
Nature is marvelous in appearance and diverse in its manifestations. The variety and complexity of its forms are astounding. This splendor is attributed to the wisdom of the Creator.
When humans undertake many works, often some of them are neglected or fall short of their intended purpose; God’s works, though many and extremely varied, are all made in wisdom and with the greatest exactness; there is not the least flaw nor defect in them.
The more closely human creations are examined, as with the help of a microscope, the more rough they appear; works of nature through the same examination appear more fine and exact. All God’s works are made in wisdom, for they are all made to answer the end they were designed to serve, the good of the universe, in order to the glory of God himself.
If you take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust.
God’s spirit is not only the breath of life by which they were created, but it is also the spirit that sustains them. The life forces of the natural world do not operate independently from the divine will. When the breath of life leaves a creature, it returns to the dust from which it was originally taken (Genesis 2:7, Job 12:10).
When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
God not only creates but re-creates. The ongoing forces of nature are re-creative. When creatures die, new generations take their place — a continual process of creation and renewal. Life is sustained and perpetuated.
The face of the earth is renewed each day by the light of the sun, and from year to year by the fertility of the soil and the turning of the seasons. Creation is experienced as an ongoing event.
God’s works are glorious indeed!
May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD be glad in his works!
The psalmist prays that God will continue to look with pleasure on his creation, as he did in the beginning when he saw everything that he had made was very good and rested the seventh day (Genesis 1:31 – 2:4).
Pleasing to him be my theme; I will be glad in the LORD.
The psalmist concludes with a prayer that God find the psalmist’s praise acceptable. This final verse can also be rendered as, May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.